|November 1, 2009
It's a simple fact that throughout time, people travel. While visiting other fascinating countries, they partake of their surroundings, spending their money on necessities and frivolities, with unusual coin of the realm returned for what remains unspent. Either as souvenirs of their trips or the inconvenience of exchange, these foreign tokens of commerce are pulled from the suitcases and dusty pockets to join their brethren in a glass jar at the back of the closet. Years, perhaps decades later, they resurface and inevitably the question comes to mind, could these be worth something? Perhaps a rarity among the rabble, a jewel among the jackals lies hidden, one speculates. But how could someone find out?
Governments issue coin and currency to handle daily transactions among its populace. Millions, sometimes billions of a given denomination are cast out annually by mints. Generally, a common coin will always be common, and regrettably, such is the case for nearly all of the foreign coin collections culled from circulation. A good example is the 1,700 year old Constantine the Great bronze follis, a coin slightly smaller than a dime. In extremely fine condition, these can be had for under US$15.00, due to plentiful finds and low demand.
There are, however, rare instances of an expensive piece lurking among the coins. Chances are exceedingly slim, so most dealers have little interest in doing the research and inspecting each coin. Reference books on world coins, particularly the Krause century manuals are the fundamental source for searching out values. The bottom line, though is that collectors of coins from other countries are not as plentiful as those who collect United States coinage. So, in spite of the effort made to look through that jar of world coins that seemingly we all have, the payoff is not worth the time or expense involved in the search for that grain of gold among the long, lonely stretch of sand.